Gloves and Mittens

miniature mittens
© F H Powell 2007

As we head towards the colder months ahead now might be a good time to think about knitting gloves or mittens to keep hands and fingers warm during the inevitable cold snaps.

A glove is a cover for the whole hand including individual sealed covers for each finger and thumb. A glof was known in the first century old English and can be traced back to the Old Norse word glofi. However, there is evidence that gloves could be found as far back as 2,500 years ago and certainly during Roman times. These gloves though tended to be more of a gauntlet, used as protection in battle rather than for protection against the weather. Viking raiders were known to wear gloves as they invaded parts of Western Europe from the 8th to 11th centuries, but again as part of battle dress and as a sign of status for noblemen. It was around this time that an industry of glove making evolved with a guild of Paris glove makers being formed in the twelfth century. It was not until the 1200’s that ladies wore gloves as an accessory with finer examples being made of silk or linen. The wearing of gloves by ladies during this period however was regarded as decadent and frowned upon by holy orders. This view was overturned when Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) took to wearing elaborate gloves often sequined or set with ornate jewels. The glove as a sign of opulence and fashion had arrived. Social classes were distinguished by the types of gloves worn; the upper classes having perfumed fine silks and the lower classes knitted woollen gloves. Even knitted woollen gloves required a high level of skill with commercial knitters required to undergo a 5-year apprenticeship.
Gloves continued to be hand made until the early 19th century when an Englishman called James Winter invented the Gloving Donkey, a clamp with brass teeth that held the gloves allowing for quicker and better spaced sewing. Gloves today are seen as a commodity item commanding far a less percentage of disposable income than of years gone by.

miniature knitting
© F H Powell 2012

Mittens on the others hand (no pun intended), probably originated from animal furs being wrapped around the hand with the sole object being the prevention of cold. Having no “fingers” but usually a “thumb”, early examples have been found in northern Europe where cold weather is more problematic. Early knitted mittens tend not to survive as the wool degrades and rots but examples from the 9th century have been found in the Netherlands. Due to the lack of fingers mittens are easier to put on and take off and are therefore ideal for children. The addition of a cord up a sleeve and over the shoulder to the other mitten makes a failsafe way of preventing them being lost and are known, less charitably, as idiot mittens. For adults fingerless mittens can be a useful way or maintaining some warmth to the hand whilst leaving the fingers free to do fiddly or dextrous work. A fact not lost on gunners manning large gun employments during WWI.

So with winter around the corner this might just be the time to start on those gloves or mittens. More information about the patterns we have available in 1:12th scale can be found by clicking the links below:
1:12th scale ladies mittens
1:12th scale childrens animal mittens